Researchers are investigating the possibility of using waste from larvae production as a crop fertiliser.
The concept is being explored by researchers at the University of Warwick and Durham University as part of a project on the viability of rearing insects for animal feed in the UK.
The project will take the waste material, known as frass, from Black Soldier Fly larvae reared in a commercial set up by Entocycle.
Researchers will characterise the frass, where the larvae have been fed on different types of food waste. They will then investigate its use as a plant fertiliser and growth stimulant.
Glasshouse and field-based trials will be undertaken at the University of Warwick’s Crop Centre at its Wellesbourne Campus.
Rob Lillywhite, project lead at the University of Warwick said: “Frass is a by-product of producing insects and is likely to contain many of the essential elements required for plant growth.”
“We are excited by the opportunity to examine its use in plant production as it is a natural and sustainable product.”
Finding a value-adding use for the frass will add to the sustainability of using insect protein in the food system as an alternative to products like soya, Lillywhite added.
“We will test the frass and investigate its plant nutrient potential, both in its natural form and then look at any possibility of processing it as an ingredient in plant feeds.”
Boost plant immunity
Co-investigator at Durham University, Elaine Fitches, said: “At Durham, we will conduct complementary fundamental research to explore how frass can be used to boost plant immunity and will seek to explain the molecular mechanisms underpinning enhanced plant responses to pathogen attack.”
Ari Sadanandom, co-investigator at Durham, said: “Our goal is to provide scientific evidence that will contribute to enhancing the sustainability of agri-food systems in the longer term.”
The research is part of a £10m funding package from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to help fund the construction of the UK’s first large-scale industrial insect farm and accelerate the development of sustainable food production systems.
The project, led-by Entocycle, will deliver a plan to rapidly convert food waste into insect-based animal feed for the aquaculture and pet food industries.
It is led by Keiran Whitaker of Entocycle and the consortium involves Better Origin and Beta Bugs, AIC (Agriculture Industries Confederation) AB Agri Ltd, Fera Science, Insect Technology Group UK, University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and Zero Waste Scotland.